This fall GCSCI sent 12 ambassadors to our sister cities in Germany, Brazil, and China. These individuals were not your typical “official” representatives of Columbus in suits and ties; all of them were marathon runners taking part in GCSCI’s Marathon Exchange Program. In order to learn more about their individual experiences in these vastly different cities, I spoke with one of this year’s marathon ambassadors, Carly Damman, to learn more about her time in Curitiba, Brazil.
I first spoke with Carly less than a week after she returned, with the memories of Curitiba still swimming in her head. There she stayed with Curitiba-native Ivete Mollossi, one of Curitiba’s first marathon ambassadors to Columbus, and her daughter Gisela. Carly and I spent some time talking about some of her favorite activities in Curitiba. She told me that one of her best experiences there was the first night, when one of the hosts hired a chef for a Brazilian barbecue with all of the Columbus runners. She also told me how excited she was to meet Curitiba’s mayor. We also talked about Carly’s initial shock about the difficulty of Curitiba’s marathon; upon arriving, her and the other runners found out that the marathon was ranked as one of the most difficult international courses, with its challenging hills and kilometer measuring system.
At first Carly told me that she initially anticipated just going to Brazil to run the marathon, but her goals and interests expanded after meeting with the mayor. During the meeting Carly discussed her interests in seeing a children’s hospital, as she works for Ronald McDonald House. Later in the week the Curitiba officials coordinated a tour of a children’s hospital, Little Prince (or Pequeno Príncipe in Portuguese) for her and the rest of the group. Little Prince is a non-profit pediatric specialties center that is trusted throughout Latin America. It prides itself on its welcoming atmosphere, noting on it’s website that it serves some people as a “temporary home”. Carly noticed that the hospital there was located in an inviting, historic building which contrasted with the U.S.’s large, intimidating care centers. However, in the end she noticed that the two were more similar than different and that the Little Prince offered a very wide array of services.
Carly was also excited to see Ronald McDonald House of Brazil’s work for the hospital, which helped Little Prince remodel their chemotherapy department. She also got to visit a similar Ronald McDonald style house where families could stay while awaiting treatment, a concept that we also make use of in Columbus. Carly spoke about a potential partnership between Ronald McDonald House of Columbus and Curitiba and made sure to exchange her information with the hospital and its affiliates.
Carly and I discussed some of the challenges she faced in Curitiba, which, of course, included the language differences between her and many of its residents. However, she told me that she was easily able to overcome this with the help of her host, Ivete, who accompanied her throughout the city, even on shopping trips. Carly concluded that her time with her host family allowed her to really experience what life is like for an ordinary citizen in Curitiba, she described how she got to experience Brazil’s welcoming culture in the form of Ivete’s delicious home cooked meals and her excitement to open her home to a stranger. Carly told me that she quickly fell in love with the city and that, in the end, Ivete treated her no differently than her own daughter.
We at GCSCI like to emphasize our president’s favorite saying, “Travel with purpose.” When I asked Carly if she traveled to Curitiba with a purpose and whether or not she achieved it, she answered with a resounding yes. She explained that her purpose developed as she realized the opportunities Curitiba offered her and concluded that the relationships she formed with Little Prince hospital and her hosts show that the Marathon Exchange Program is about much more than running.